IDF cancels all operational duty for reserves

After cuts to defense budget, army reduces training; Ya'alon: We must take calculated risks, fill gaps caused by cuts.

June 3, 2013 20:47
3 minute read.
IDF reservists during Operation Pillar of Defense

IDF reservists during Operation Pillar of Defense 370. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)

The IDF has canceled all reserve operational duty for the remainder of the year due to a cut in the defense budget for 2013 and 2014.

Reserve soldiers from four battalions who received call-up notices in the past two weeks will soon be notified that their duties have been canceled for the remainder of the year.

The government decided last month to cut the defense budget by NIS 3 billion in 2014, and by NIS 1.5b. this year, as part of a wider attempt to deal with a NIS 40b. deficit.

The coming months will also see a significant reduction in reserve training. The priority in advanced training will be placed on the infantry and armored corps reserve forces that are expected to take part in a land maneuver during a future potential war. The rest of the reserves will undergo basic battle fitness training only.

Slashes in training activities for regular soldiers will also be felt, among units belonging to the Home Front Command, the Engineering Corps and the Artillery Corps. Training programs for the Armored Corps will be cut by a number of weeks.

The IDF is also expected to cancel General Staff exercises this year, including one set for the air force and the Central Command.

Addressing the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said the IDF needed the resources to be able to keep to a multi-year force building plan.

“In talks about the budget, it was clear to me that the security forces have to shoulder their weight in dealing with the deficit, but this should be done wisely, and with a multi-year program,” Ya’alon said.

“There are heavy and immediate implications to the defense budget. The situation is fragile. To get through 2013 and 2014 successfully, we’re being forced to cut reserve days, to decrease training and operational duties of the reserves, and as a result, to load more onto the regular forces, who take up the reserves’ place.

“There will be cuts in the short term on condition that we’ll know how to provide an answer for the long term. We’re expecting a very difficult year in 2014,” Ya’alon added.

In terms of air defense, the budget cuts will not impact the production of Iron Dome batteries, which are continuing at an increased rate, Ya’alon said, but the development of the David’s Sling system, which intercepts medium- range projectiles like Hezbollah’s arsenal of katyushas, will have to be “stretched” unless a new arrangement is made.

Ya’alon lashed out at what he described as inaccurate claims about the salaries and pensions of career soldiers. He said an IDF engineer “serves, rather than works.”

“The engineer is at the IDF’s service 24 hours a day without overtime,” he said. “There’s nowhere else where one is available 24 hours a day. In past two years, the servicemen and pensioners have been seriously hit [by budget cuts]... not everyone reaches high ranks, and the criticism is therefore unwarranted.”

MK Nachman Shai (Labor) praised the IDF’s decision to cut reserve training as opposed to funding for regular soldiers, calling it “measured and balanced.”

“The need to cut the budget puts the IDF in an impossible situation,” he said. “This decision creates a long-term problem, but at the moment it is the only way. The State of Israel and the IDF are taking a calculated risk.”

At the same time, Shai pointed out that instability in the Middle East could create new situations in which the IDF will have to change its plans yet again and ignore the difficult budget cut.

MK Omer Bar-Lev (Labor) said there’s no reason to get worked up over the cuts, because he trusts Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz.

“They understand the need for significant cuts and their responsibility to provide security for the citizens of the State of Israel,” he stated.

“I trust their professional judgment.”

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